Easter Weekend Chicago Loop Toodle 2013

Background Reading

Summary

Ping Tom Memorial Park Pagoda

Ping Tom Memorial Park Pagoda

Did a meandering ride around the Loop Area. It was nice to just mosey around and take pictures of whatever caught my eye. Our first stop was the local Caribou Coffee shop to use their facilities. And then it was south on Halsted to work our way over the Chicago Lakefront Trail. We made a stop at Ping Tom Park and saw the pagoda before continuing east to the switchback overpass that leads to the Soldier Field south entrance.

We made our way over to the Old Meigs Field building which now guards the Northerly Island Park.

A couple on high-end road bikes was circling the park. Other riders like ourselves were simply taking in the view of Lake Michigan and watching a father an his three daughters fly a kite in the stiff breeze overhead. I always pay homage to the “three ladies” who grace the northern end of the island trail. They stand guard over the bird sanctuary area.

Then it was north into the Museum Campus area to make our way over past Buddy Guy’s Blues Club before reaching the southern end of the Dearborn Street’s Protected Bike Lane. The lane is pretty nice at this time of year. The traffic is quite light and people were out in the plaza outside the main post office evidently having some sort of Easter or Passover. Either way there were plenty of banners and was being played over a nice loudspeaker system.

Some Thoughts On Dearborn Street’s PBL

Adam “I Can Whine With The Best” Herstein wrote a few days ago the following to the “I Rode Dearborn Today” thread on ChainLink:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) on December 17, 2012 at 1:38pm
Overall, the new bike lane is great. It’s much better than my usual route riding Wells into the Loop. I do have a few minor gripes:

There are some serious flooding issues. I had to avoid some fairly large puddles heading southbound. The bike lanes are pretty narrow, so this can cause conflicts with northbound riders.

The bridge is missing bollards and metal plates. I hear those will be installed soon, but for now the lane is marked off using sawhorses.
Pedestrians seem to be using the bike lane as an extended sidewalk. I noticed quite a few people standing or walking in the bike lane. Hopefully, this is just a carryover from when the bike lane was under construction – I saw a lot more people walking in the lane when it was closed off.

The bike lane on Kinzie connecting the two protected bike lanes is not yet installed. I hear this will most likely be installed next year.
It does not appear that a green wave is in use. This would be nice to have, but not essential.

I did not notice any motorists turning left on a red arrow, however.

Dearborn Protected Bike Lane – Before and After from Active Trans on Vimeo.
Well here are some observations of mine:

  • The bridge over the Chicago River just beyond Wacker Drive is now fitted with metal plates. They are “noisy” when riding over them. But I am guessing that when temperatures drop the bolts will “snug up” so they has to be some expansion room available during the warm weather. The bollards were also in place.
  • The flooding issues are just in front of the Post Office Plaza. That will take some serious street repair. For the summer the only hazard will be during heavy rains when those two lanes fill up with water. And yes the bike lanes are “too narrow“. The feeling I get as I ride around the city and examine the bike lanes is that this is clearly a “first time project” for CDOT. The most problematic thing is that there does not seem to be much consistency. I get the feeling that every possible variation of lane design is being used to gather data on what works here.
  • People are walking in the bike lane. The ones I saw were trying to get to the driver side door of their cars to leave the parking area. Someone did not really think through this “problem”. When you have a PBL like this one with the parking on the “left” side of the street (along with the PBL) the drivers simply cannot get into their cars without walking in the bike lane. I put the blame on this one squarely on the shoulders of Gabe. He is not having people who ride bikes “vet” these designs.
  • Bikers are going to have to understand that in a world where “Zebra Crosswalks” are used they are the second-class citizens. Take a look at the article in the BikePortland Blog about this. Bicyclists are so used to be the focus of their own world they forget that just below them in the “vulnerable users” pantheon are the pedestrians. Dearborn Street has “Zebra Crosswalks” all the way along its length with one exception and that is at Lake Street under the elevated trains. (Note: these special crosswalks are constructed using brick at the Congress Park intersection.) So in practice when a person steps out onto the street while walking in that lane they have the right-of-way over everyone else (cyclists and motorists alike).
  • The left turn signal has an “awkward placement“. It is evidently where it was when cars turned left from what is now the parking lane. I am curious whether drivers think that it might indeed be for cyclists and that they get to turn whenever the light is green. Keep in mind that there really is no dedicated left turn lane on this street for motorists. So what they see is a left turn signal close to what is now the cyclists lane and if their eyesight is good enough they can make out the bicycle icon. That icon is essentially a stop and go signal for bikes. But it would appear that cars and bikes share the left turn signal. Which brings up another point, cyclist usually have either helmet or handlebar mirrors on their left side. Cars turning to their right are doing so without being observed. So it is possible that a cyclist and a motorist could be aiming for the same “completion lane” and that could be disastrous. The real solution would be stop lights with a turn arrow on the same light. One for cars and another for cyclists timed to allow cyclists to go first, with a sufficient delay to avoid overlap.

Some Thoughts On Milwaukee Avenue and Kinzie Street Bicycle Traffic

Ron Burke is either fibbing or sadly deluded when he proclaims that the reason cyclist do not behave themselves on the roadway is because they lack sufficient bicycle infrastructure. Wrong! We saw only one bicyclist (an Asian female on a nifty road bike) who waited at a red light during the entire ride up to Native Foods along Kinzie and then Milwaukee.

At one point a fellow passed us heading along the connecting streets between Dearborn and the Kinzie PBL riding a nice blue Dahon folder. He was wearing a red and black jacket. He never batted an eyelash as he blew through every stop light along the way. Another fellow who was a bit scruffy and riding loose jeans and I believe no helmet came around us as we were crossing the bridge on Kinzie and passed without warning.

He managed to nearly get hit by a car turning left just beyond the bridge because he failed to stop at the stop sign guarding the intersection where drivers from the west turn across the westbound lanes into a high rise complex. I shook my head and figured he had to be a ChainLink “regular“. That kind of “jerk” behavior takes “seasoning“. And the best place for that is on the ChainLink Forum.

Then we were passed on the right by a trio of males riders at the intersection of Kinzie and Halsted Streets. There really was no reason to head out into the intersection the lights were short but these knuckleheads tried hide their offense by making partial of the crosswalk and then headed back into the roadway having cross half the intersection.

The very next time I read that some ChainLinker wants to “educate” motorists on how to behave I am going to reach through the ethernet and choke the crap out of them. Our behavior as cyclists is pointless. I can understand blowing through lights if you have waited and one has not turned, but to just cruise through each and every one of them is silly and dangerous. And I certainly do not want to hear any more blather from Ron Burke on how we need PBLs to promote “safety“. Breaking the law on a routine basis is the antithesis of “safety“.

Finally after luncheon on our way back to the UIC campus we were riding past the now closed police station on Wood Street. If you have ever done this route you know that the block on which the old station is situated has a half dozen (or so it seems) stop signs. You get tired of all the braking that you have to do but the “law is the law“. My guess is that residents with children demanded this to “calm traffic” in the area.

So as we were approaching the end of the block here come three cyclists. The first blows each and every stop sign and never misses a pedal stroke. Next a few yards back come two more, blowing each and every stop sign. But the “corker” here was the fact that the trailing rider was in full conversation on his cell phone (while he was riding)!

How many tirades have I read on the ChainLink from cyclists who berate folks for driving distracted. And then we go and do something like this! Please, let’s just stop the bitching and moaning about everyone else and agree to “come out of the closet” as “scofflaws“. That seems the fairest possible thing to do.

I’ll cease to complain about brakeless fixed gear bikes if everyone ceases to whine about cyclists who get “doored” while riding such bikes.

The Trip Home

By the time we got back to the van it was nearly 6 PM and the temperatures were plummeting. You could feel the cool air moving in and so we hurried to get the bikes stowed and back on the road way home. I am going to revisit the Kinzie PBL once the linkup with Elston(?) is complete. That should make for a very nice trip parallel to Milwaukee and probably with wider stretches that better accommodate riders on bikes. One quick note: The Planet Bike headlights we use during daylight hours really alert everyone facing towards us. I would highly recommend using them if you want to be seen even in daylight situations.

Cyclometer Info

Distance: 16.6 miles
Time: 2h 30m 54s